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article imageQ&A: How any energy company can deliver zero carbon emissions Special

By Tim Sandle     Dec 9, 2018 in Environment
Xcel energy have announced they will reduce its carbon emissions 100 percent by 2050. Environmental consultants As You Sow have been working with Xcel Energy over several years. Lila Holzman explains the involvement.
As Digital Journal''s Karen Graham has reported Xcel energy, which serves 3.6 million electricity customers in eight U.S. states has declared that it is committed to eliminating all its carbon emissions from electrical generation by 2050, and becoming 80 percent carbon-free by 2030. As You Sow have assisted Xcel energy with successfully reaching [url= shareholder resolutions in 2011 and 2017, and is currently engaging with the company through the Climate Action 100+ investor initiative.
To discover more about the process, how other energy companies can follow Xcel energy’s model, and climate change in general, Digital Journal spoke with As You Sow's Lila Holzman.
Digital Journal: What are the risks arising from carbon emissions for the planet?
Lila Holzman: Uncontrolled carbon emissions are contributing to the risk of a catastrophic increase in global average temperatures. We are already seeing and feeling its impacts in drought and fires, unprecedented storms, flooding, sea level increase, record frigid winters, and deadly heat waves.
The harms associated with a warming global climate cause systemic portfolio risk to investors as the economy is disrupted by supply chain dislocations, reduced resource availability, lost production, infrastructure damage, and energy disruptions, among others. Thus, while some companies continue to benefit from contributing to climate change, the broader harms of climate change are causing alarm to shareholders who seek action.
DJ: How likely is the world to achieve the required level of carbon reduction? Does this depend upon political leadership?
Holzman: Right now, society is not on track to achieve the level of carbon reductions necessary to avoid catastrophic impacts. However, we are beginning to see important progress and a quickening pace toward net zero goals. Political leadership is critical, but the private sector also has a significant role to play. Technology breakthroughs and cost considerations are already moving formerly stalwart coal-based energy companies quickly away from coal; we are seeing many adopt growing amounts of renewable energy and strong greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Electric vehicles took a decade to take hold but we expect the speed of adoption will increase substantially as technology develops and costs fall. Energy management software and demand reduction mechanisms are proliferating as a means of saving energy and reducing costs. These are just a few of the many indications of a quickly decarbonizing economy.
DJ: How important is Xcel energy’s commitment to reducing its carbon emissions by 100 percent by 2050?
Holzman: Xcel Energy’s commitment to 100 percent carbon reduction by 2050 is immensely important. It is a critical signal that reducing carbon in the energy sector is feasible and good for business. Xcel is positioning itself to adapt to the ongoing low-carbon energy transition and is an early adopter in a trend that will continue.
DJ: How has As You Sow supported the Xcel energy project?
Holzman: As You Sow has engaged in productive dialogue with Xcel over the past several years, successfully reaching withdrawal agreements after filing shareholder resolutions in 2011 and 2017, and is currently engaging with the company through the Climate Action 100+ investor initiative. As investors, we are very supportive of the progress the company has made and has committed to continue. This demonstrates a shared understanding of how the company will pursue sustainable value for its customers and shareholders over the long term.
DJ: How can other energy companies be persuaded to follow suit?
Holzman: Xcel’s announcement serves as an excellent example for other utilities to emulate. Many utilities are acknowledging the need to decarbonize but have been hesitant to fully commit to a strategy that will achieve the level of emissions reductions necessary. Xcel is demonstrating that barriers utilities face to making ambitious commitments can be managed and surpassed.
DJ: What other activities has As You Sow been working on?
Holzman: With respect to climate change, As You Sow has been a critical force in moving upstream oil and gas companies to recognize and begin acting on climate change — from improving fracking practices, to reducing operational methane emissions, addressing carbon asset risk, and leading the way in the push for oil and gas company transition planning.
We have also been working with coal-based utilities since 2011, urging them to quickly move away from coal, adopt energy efficiency and renewable energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with global targets to maintain global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius. We also regularly release a Clean200 report ranking the largest publicly listed companies by their clean energy revenues.
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